Five Republican congressmen vote against bill committing to peaceful transfer of power after election

Andrew Naughtie
·4-min read
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz. (EPA)
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz. (EPA)

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a symbolic bill committing its members to the peaceful transfer of power after the upcoming election – but while 397 members voted for it, 5 Republicans voted no.

The vote came on the same day as Donald Trump’s first TV debate with Joe Biden, during which the president not only refused to guarantee an orderly transition but also declined to disavow white supremacy, while also telling the violent Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”.

The legislation as written reaffirms “the House of Representatives' commitment to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power called for in the Constitution of the United States”. Of the House’s 435 voting members, 397 voted to back it; many others were unable to vote or abstained.

However, taking a stand against the bill were five Republicans: Florida’s Matt Gaetz, Texas’s Louie Gohmert, Louisiana’s Clay Higgins, Iowa’s Steve King and Kentucky’s Thomas Massie.

Asked for comment on why he had voted no, Mr Massie replied: “This resolution was a disingenuous political statement meant to poke the president in the eye. Isn’t it interesting that speaker Pelosi and leader McCarthy didn’t have the time or political willpower to take a recorded vote on the $2 trillion bailout package that passed in March, but they’re now happy to vote on this tripe?”

Mr Higgins, meanwhile, called the bill a “Democrat stunt" and “an attack against Mr Trump that falsely asserts an intention to resist a peaceful transition of executive power after an uncontested election result.”

Remarking that Democrats have refused to accept the results of the 2016 election, he said: “I will continue to vote no on gimmicks and politically driven congressionsal actions that seek to further divide our nation.”

In fact, Hillary Clinton used her 2016 concession speech to specifically stress the importance of non-violent passage between presidents.

“I still believe in America, and I always will." she said. "And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power.

"We don't just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them."

During debate on the bill, Mr Gaetz – one of Mr Trump’s most pugnacious allies even by the standards of Capitol Hill – began his caustic floor speech in similar terms. “This resolution,” he said, “is a way for Democrats to attack the president and disguise the fact that they will refuse to accept the election results unless they win,” he said.

After a lengthy ramble on supposed Democratic hypocrisy when it comes to political integrity and violence, in which he cited examples of alleged ballot fraud and violence by left-wing “Antifa goon squads and fascists in brown shirts”, Mr Gaetz said the bill was “part of the democrats' plan to lay the groundwork for a colour revolution. The ousting of an elected leader and calling it democracy.”

The term “colour revolution” has previously been heavily used in Russian state media to dismiss democratic revolutions in post-Soviet countries as the cynical work of Western nations. In recent weeks, particularly since an interview with a former Trump staffer on Fox News, it has entered the discourse of Trump allies discussing a supposed Democratic plot to steal the election and dislodge Mr Trump using the same methods.

“But that's not democracy,” Mr Gaetz continued. “It's nothing less than the destruction of our cherished nation. I unequivocally support the peaceful transfer of power but will vote no on this resolution, and I encourage my colleagues to do the same. And I will pray that America survives the Democrats' mad and destructive lust for power.”

Mr Gohmert, Mr Higgins, and Mr King have all been contacted for comment.

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